The typical NBA player makes $2.5 million a year. The league’s biggest salary goes to Kobe Bryant with $25 million. The minimum NBA salary is $525,093. The middle-of-the-road NBA annual payout is a lot closer to the bottom than the top.
The grand total of all salaries of all NBA players comes to $2.3 billion. That money results in an estimated $5 billion in total NBA revenue. Still, the NBA is crying poverty, with commissioner Adam Silver complaining that a significant number of teams lose money.
Since 1985, total NBA salaries have seen an 80% jump, even accounting for inflation and the increased number of players.
Either way it’s sliced, NBA salary money is a lot bigger than NCAA player pay of $0 per year.
Median NBA Salary
The median NBA salary is $2.5 million per year. “Median” means about the same thing as “typical.” It gives a better view of how much an NBA player makes than average because “median” is literally “middle.” In other words, half the players in the NBA make more than $2.5 million and half make less. “Average” doesn’t work that way.
|Year||Total NBA Salary||Number of Players||Average Salary||Median NBA Salary|
In 2015-16, the average NBA player makes $5.2 million, but that doesn’t mean most NBA players make that much. Look at it this way: Take a group of 1,000 people, and 999 of them have saved $30,000 and the other is Bill Gates. The median net worth of the group is $30,000. The average is $8 billion.
It’s the same with the NBA. Top earners like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James pull down $23 million to $25 million per year. Bottom guys like Marcelo Huertas and Christian Wood bring in $525,093. The typical NBA player is a lot closer to the bottom than the top.
Total NBA Salary
The total of all NBA salaries for all 30 teams in 2015 is $2.3 billion. That’s $2.3 billion split between 446 players. If the money was divided evenly it would pay $5.2 million to each player. Since the money isn’t split evenly, the middle-of-the-road NBA player makes $2.5 million dollar cut of that massive money pie.
|Year||Total NBA Salaries||Notes|
|1985||$242,106,837||(Adjusted for inflation)|
Also see: LeBron James Net Worth
The combined salaries of all 30 NBA teams in 2011 was $1.9 billion. In 2012 it rose 6% to $2 billion. For the next two years, total NBA salary climbed a modest 1% to 3%. In 2015 it jumped 12% to $2.3 billion.
For perspective, look at the total NBA salary money in 1985. The total of all salaries for all 296 players back then was $109 million. Even adjusting for inflation would only bring the figure to $242 million. Taking into account that there were fewer players back then, that’s still an 82% jump.
Is the NBA Profitable?
NBA commissioner Adam Silver has famously stated that a significant number of NBA teams are losing money. NBA poverty claims are seen by some as a buildup for forcing down player salaries.
Looking at NBA money from a salary standpoint, the NBA paid players $1.9 billion in 2011 on nearly $4 billion in revenue. By 2013, total player salary money had climbed to $2 billion, but NBA revenue jumped to $4.6 billion. In 2015 the NBA paid players $2.3 billion on an estimated $5 billion in revenue.
|Year||Total NBA Salaries||Revenue||Difference|
Also see: Kobe Bryant Net Worth
Year over year, the NBA has netted an average of $2.3 billion after paying salaries of all its players. Whether or not the league and its teams are profitable depends heavily on whether that $2.3 billion per year is enough to cover all other expenses. It’s also a different story for each team. There are twelve teams in the NBA that are losing money. The least profitable team in the league is the Charlotte Bobcats. The team is estimated to lose $20 million per year. It has the lowest TV ratings in the NBA and the smallest audience size. Hall of famer Michael Jordan was able to buy the Bobcats in 2010 for $175 million. Since then, Jordan has pumped millions more into the money-losing venture.
Highest Paid NBA Players
The highest paid player in the NBA is LA Lakers small forward Kobe Bryant with a salary of $25 million. The other top ten highest paid NBA stars, including Joe Johnson, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, aren’t far behind. All top 10 NBA earners make $20 million or above.
|Money Rank||NBA Player||Salary|
Lowest Paid NBA Players
The lowest paid players in the league all make the same salary: $525,093. That’s the NBA’s guaranteed minimum annual pay. The team with the highest paid player in the league, the LA Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, also has one of the lowest paid: Marcelo Huertas.
All in all, there are fourteen players in the NBA tied for last place income.
|Last Place NBA Salary Player||Salary|
NBA Money Compared to Other Sports
How does NBA salary money stack up against other popular sports? While average salaries don’t give a good picture of how much an NBA player makes, they do work for comparisons. Looking at average salaries between the NBA, MLB, NHL and NFL, the NBA has by far the highest player pay average of the bunch.
The NBA’s average player made $5 million per year in the 2010-11 season. The average MLB player earned only $3.3 million. The NHL average salary drops even more to $2.4 million, while the average NFL player makes “only” $1.9 million per year.
NBA players take issue with these figures. It’s true that the NBA has the highest average salary of any major league sport. However, they also have the smallest amount of players per team. That means each player’s contribution to a win or loss counts considerably more. Looking at the number of players on a team, an NBA player is responsible for 20% of the play. An MLB player only counts for 11% of the total, while an NFL player is only responsible for about 5%.
Also see: The Game Net Worth
NBA vs College Ball
The question, “How much does an NBA player make” takes on a whole new meaning when the league is compared to college ball. The NBA may take in $5 billion in 2015 and pay out more than half of that to players. By contrast, the NCAA brought in an estimated $1 billion and paid out nothing to its players. One fifth of the revenue doesn’t look so bad when your share of the salary commitment is zero.